Proposition G - High Speed Rail Terminus at Transbay

Voter Guide
June 1, 2010
This measure appeared on the June 2010 San Francisco ballot.
 
image

Image: Colleen McHugh

What it does

Proposition G is a declaration of policy reinforcing the San Francisco electorate's position that the Transbay Transit Center at First and Mission streets should be the Northern California terminus for California High Speed Rail. The declaration of policy further calls for the California High Speed Rail Authority to end consideration of the Main and Beale streets site as an alternative terminus for the state's high-speed rail system. Note: On April 8, the CHSRA voted to designate the Transbay Transit Center as the northern terminus of the high-speed rail system, thereby removing the site at Main and Beale from consideration. However, Prop. G will still appear on the San Francisco ballot.

Why it is on the ballot

As part of the project-level environmental review of the San Francisco to San Jose segment of California High Speed Rail, the California High Speed Rail Authority introduced the site at Main and Beale streets as a new terminus alternative that was not considered in the overarching program environmental impact report. The CHSRA contended that state environmental laws require consideration of all possible routing and terminus alternatives, but the Transbay Joint Powers Authority—charged with developing the new Transbay Transit Center—studied and rejected the Main and Beale location as part of the environmental review process for that project.

The ballot measure's proponents were concerned that extended consideration of the Main and Beale streets alternative would derail the work of the TJPA, and assert that San Francisco voters have already declared their intention to have the Transbay Transit Center as the northern terminus for high-speed rail. San Francisco voters approved Prop. H in 1999, which made the construction of the train and bus terminal at the proposed site the official City policy. Furthermore, state Prop. 1A in 2009 mandated the northern terminal to be located at the Transbay Terminal.

The City and County of San Francisco and the TJPA have both gone on record in opposition to the Main and Beale alternative, citing the extensive environmental, redevelopment, land acquisition and federal funding efforts that have been undertaken in support of the current First and Mission site. As part of a concerted effort to encourage the California High Speed Rail Authority to end consideration of an alternative Northern California terminus site, proponents introduced this declaration of policy.

Pros

Arguments in favor of this measure:

  • This declaration of policy attempts to end further discussion of the Main and Beale streets alternative, which already has been studied and rejected for technical problems. Development of the Transbay Transit Center at First and Mission streets already has been environmentally cleared and significantly funded through a combination of federal, state and local funds.
  • Further discussion of the Main and Beale alternative could significantly delay the development process of the Transbay Transit Center. A temporary terminal already has been constructed, and the old Transbay Terminal is ready for demolition. Dragging out consideration of the alternative site also could significantly affect the receipt of federal funds committed and designated for the development and construction of the Transbay Transit Center at First and Mission.
  • Implementing the Main and Beale alternative would require the removal of existing housing and the elimination of plans for future housing at that site, together constituting one of the largest eminent domain takings in San Francisco. It also would significantly increase the estimated cost to construct the Transbay Terminal.

Cons

Arguments against this measure:

  • This declaration of policy attempts to foreclose on further discussion of the Main and Beale streets alternative, which has the potential for wider stations and more platforms that can provide higher capacity for California High Speed Rail than the Transbay Transit Center. The Main and Beale alternative could offer similar or increased capacity at a lower cost.
  • This measure does not need to be on the ballot because a measure declaring the Transbay Terminal as the northern terminus of California High Speed Rail already has been adopted as the official policy of San Francisco and by the voters of California.

SPUR's Analysis

In studying the alternatives as part of the environmental review process for the Transbay Transit Center at the First and Mission site, a number of alternative sites were considered. Among those alternatives was the site at Main and Beale streets, which ultimately was rejected for a number of reasons, including the cost of acquiring 1,800 existing and planned housing units and a number of state-owned lots. Further, the technical issues introduced by routing an approach so close to the pilings of Interstate Highway 280 could introduce structural challenges and higher costs that the existing site at First and Mission already has addressed.

Further, it is difficult to build consensus around large development projects in San Francisco, but there has been consensus around the First and Mission location for nearly 30 years, and it has been cleared by agencies and funders at the federal, state and local levels. Rebuilding this coalition of support around the Main and Beale location would be extremely expensive and time consuming, without any guarantee that the technical or financial advantages—or even the desired consensus—ultimately would ultimately be achieved.

While SPUR supports of the spirit of the CHSRA analysis of alternatives in this environmental process to meet the requirements of state law, we also believe that this work unnecessarily duplicates that conducted on behalf of the TJPA in 2001. The Main and Beale site would significantly increase costs and substantially delay the development of a San Francisco terminus for high-speed rail as required and stipulated under the terms of 2009 Prop. 1A, the ballot measure authorizing the development of high-speed rail in California. This exercise unnecessarily impedes or delays the development, funding and construction of a significant development incorporating several modes of transportation, one that already has broken ground.

SPUR recommends a "Yes" vote on Prop. G.